Novak Djokovic is one of the most significant sportsmen of this generation and his momentous fifth Wimbledon triumph adds credence to the belief he could be remembered as the greatest tennis player of all time. The Serb is a streetfighter who relishes the challenge even when they appear at their most daunting
Against Roger Federer, who is currently viewed as the greatest of the sport, in the Wimbledon showpiece Djokovic achieved a series of firsts in what will be remembered as a classic.
Djokovic became the first man in the Open era to save championship points in a final at the All England Club and win, while his victory – the longest Wimbledon final in history – came at the end of the first final-set 12-12 tiebreak in singles.
He withstood an excellent fightback from Federer, who was bidding to come back from two sets to one down in a Grand Slam final for the first time, to deny the Swiss a 21st Grand Slam title.
Not only that but he did so against an overwhelming crowd support in favour of Federer. There is genuine respect for both competitors from the fans but there can be no denying their heart was with the eight-time champion.
During a four-hour-and-57-minute epic, which featured a dramatic final set which lasted over two hours, Djokovic – known for wearing his emotions on court – displayed an equilibrium which defied the thrilling ebb and flow to the match.
“That was one thing that I promised myself coming on to the court,” Djokovic said. “That I needed to stay calm and composed, because I knew that the atmosphere will be as it was.”
He added: “Of course, if you have the majority of the crowd on your side, it helps, it gives you motivation, it gives you strength, it gives you energy.
“When you don’t, then you have to find it within, I guess.”
The size of the victory was not lost on Djokovic, who has now won four of the last five Grand Slams and is the favourite for next month’s US Open, as he reflected on another memorable five-set encounter in a Grand Slam final.
“It was probably mentally the most demanding match I was ever part of,” he said.
“I had the most physically demanding match against Nadal in the 2012 finals of Australia that went almost six hours. But mentally this was a different level, because of everything.”
Djokovic faced two championship points at 8-7 on the Federer serve in the final set but, staring defeat in the face, he won four points in a row to remain in the contest, such is his willpower.
“I obviously try to play the match in my mind before I go on the court. I probably could not play this kind of scenario,” he said smiling.
“I always try to imagine myself as a winner. I think there is a power to that.
“Also there has to be, next to the willpower, strength that comes not just from your physical self, but from your mental and emotional self.
“For me, at least, it’s a constant battle within, more than what happens outside.”
Federer remains in the lead on the all-time list of Grand Slam men’s singles titles with 20, but 33-year-old Rafael Nadal (18) and particularly 32-year-old Djokovic (16) have time on their side.
The ‘Big Three’ continue to drive each other on and while Federer insisted after his agonising defeat he was not motivated by records, Djokovic appears unrelenting in his pursuit.
“It seems like I’m getting closer, but also they’re winning slams. We’re kind of complementing each other,” he said. “We’re making each other grow and evolve and still be in this game. I mean those two guys are probably one of the biggest reasons I still compete at this level.
“The fact that they made history of this sport motivates me as well, inspires me to try to do what they have done, what they’ve achieved, and even more.
“Whether I’m going to be able to do it or not, I don’t know. I’m not really looking at age as a restriction of any kind for me at least.”
Djokovic matched the five-title haul of Bjorn Borg, another great from another era, at Wimbledon with his victory and yet his popularity is indifferent at best.
“When the crowd is chanting ‘Roger’ I hear ‘Novak’,” Djokovic said.
He knows who the Wimbledon darling is with the public but is optimistic with time he can receive such unequivocal backing.